The 2012 Republican National Convention is still more than a year away, but even early preparations suggest its sheer scale and complexity.
With each television network and 13,000 to 15,000 journalists in attendance, it is expected to use more cables and fiber connections and draw more electricity than anything ever held in Florida.
"We've not been involved in a convention in recent times … where a facility had enough power to handle the entire convention," said Greg Lane, the national project director for Freeman, the GOP's general contractor for the convention.
As a result, organizers are working with Tampa Electric to determine whether they need to bring in additional power.
"Usually about 3 o'clock on the Friday afternoon before the convention we have everybody in here and say, 'Turn on all the juice that you're ever going to use,' and we make sure we can hold it," said Mike Miller, chief operating officer for the GOP's Committee on Arrangements.
On Monday, local TV and radio stations had a chance to walk through the St. Pete Times Forum and get a rough idea of what they may pay for working broadcast spaces in the arena.
The costs for a broadcast suite have not been set, but in 2008 in St. Paul, Minn., they ranged from nearly $18,000 to more than $34,000. The price is calculated by the square foot, based on the cost of making the space ready.
At the arena, workers will remove the bolted-down stadium seats, the furniture, even the ceiling tiles from the suites and store them off-site. Then they will cover the floors with plywood and plastic sheeting and similarly protect things they can't remove, like built-in cabinets.
Broadcasters can also pay for 6-by-12-foot stand-up positions at various points. In St. Paul, those ran about $8,500 each.
Outside the arena, however, this convention won't feature the acres of trailers seen in the past. In Philadelphia in 2000, broadcasters set up some 300 trailers. But by the time of the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul, most of the major networks had grown tired of the expense and logistical difficulties of working out of trailers. They said they would trade less space to work indoors.
In the Channel District, there isn't room for hundreds of trailers anyway. So the Tampa Convention Center will become a huge hub of working space for journalists. Somewhere in the convention campus, organizers also plan, as they have done before, a "Radio Talk Show Row" and a "Bloggers Row."
The downsides to using the Tampa Convention Center will be the challenge of running cables to the arena and the fact that it rains virtually every day in August. Organizers are talking about running shuttle buses between the convention center and arena.
The convention will run from Aug. 27 to Aug. 30, 2012, but organizers will get unlimited access to the arena starting on July 15, 2012, and will have until nearly midnight Sept. 13 to pack up after the event.
Monday's briefing, attended by about two dozen local broadcasters, was the precursor of a two-day walk-through in December that could draw 400 journalists.
And that's small compared with the event itself, which is expected to require 350 full-sized charter buses, more than 7,500 volunteers, 75 event venues on both sides of Tampa Bay and 15,000-plus hotel rooms every night of the convention.
"This is the single largest media event almost anywhere in the world except for the Olympic Games," said Ken Jones, president of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee, a nonprofit working to raise more than $50 million in tax-deductible contributions for the event.
"We want to make sure we make the city shine."
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.